EARLY - The Class 2A 10th-ranked Early Lady Horns gave Class 3A No. 16 Abilene Wylie all it could handle for a significant portion of Tuesday’s non-district showdown, but the Lady Horns faded down the stretch as the Lady Bulldogs pulled away for a 54-42 victory.

Early (5-1) raced out to a 10-point lead in the first period, then rallied from a 12-point third-quarter deficit and carried a two-point advantage into the fourth period. Over the last eight minutes, however, Wylie (3-4) outscored the Lady Horns, 22-8.

Despite stretches of stellar play, Early head coach Derric King expected a more consistent effort from the Lady Horns Tuesday night.

“I don’t think we played very well at all,” King said. “Before the break we had been on a roll. We didn’t play our basketball tonight. We let their defense influence us way too much. I’m disappointed and the girls are disappointed. We didn’t play Early basketball.”

Katie Isom led Early with 16 points, followed by 10 from Tylene Middleton, seven from Bailey Harris, five from Julia Loudermilk and four points from Tresta Donahoo.

Peyton Little led Abilene Wylie with a game-high 20 points, including 12 in the second half. Macee Taylor chipped in 10 points, trailed by nine from Makenzie Clay, seven from Natalie Davis, six from Chastity Williams and two points from Catherine Hooker.

The Lady Horns took a 34-32 advantage into the fourth period, but Taylor evened the score at 34-all just 11 seconds into the quarter. Clay then drained back-to-back three-pointers to stake Wylie to a 40-34 lead with 6:21 remaining.

Early clawed its way back and closed the gap to a bucket, 42-40, with 4:09 remaining as Donahoo scored following an offensive rebound.

But Little tallied seven unanswered points over the next 3:03 as Wylie increased its lead to 49-40 with just 1:06 remaining. Middleton scored Early’s final points with 40 seconds left on the clock.

“We ran out of gas. That’s all that happened,” King said. “We took the long Thanksgiving break, and we believe in letting the girls spend time with their families, so we didn’t practice at all over the break. They came in Monday and that was their first workout since the game last Tuesday.

“We’re going to have to learn how to handle being down by seven with two minutes left. We have to foul here and there and pick up the defensive pressure. I hope that they learned that we can’t slack off on defense, especially during the last part of the game, and how important conditioning is. But we’ll move on from here.”

Trailing 29-18 at halftime, the Lady Horns stormed back by outscoring Wylie 16-3 in the third period. Following a bucket from Isom, Little sank a three-pointer to give the Lady Bulldogs their largest lead of the game, 32-20, with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

The Lady Horns, meanwhile, responded with a 14-0 run to end the period. Isom recorded the first two buckets during the surge, then Donahoo scored ahead of two free throws from Harris.

Down 32-28, Harris sank a three-pointer at the 2:27 juncture to trim the deficit to 32-31, then Middleton drained a trey with 16 seconds left in the third period to give Early a 34-32 lead.

“At halftime we said the things we were doing in the first half were working, you just have to be patient and see it,” King said. “It may take a couple of more times to get a pass in there, but finally they got patient enough on offense and Katie Isom really took over inside. She did a good job keeping us in the game and did a better job blocking out.”

Early notched the game’s first 10 points and held Wylie scoreless over the opening 4:47 of the contest. Middleton contributed five points, Isom scored three and Loudermilk chipped in two points during the opening run. Wylie, however, closed the gap to 12-11 by the end of the period and outscored Early 18-6 in the second quarter.

The Lady Horns will compete in the Cross Timbers tournament in Stephenville this weekend.